She was more like a beauty queen from a movie scene
I said don’t mind, but what do you mean I am the one
Who will dance on the floor in the round
She said I am the one who will dance on the floor in the round
Billie Jean, Michael Jackson
The handbag – the small (ish?!) bag used to carry everyday personal items. It’s an item all of us are familiar with in some way or another; perhaps as a source of constant awe due to its ability to be able to pack everything but the kitchen sink in it (not unlike Mary Poppins). And it’s also the title and star of the recent artwork by Geraldine Pilgrim commissioned by Battersea Art Centre and brought to Leighton Buzzard Library Theatre by &Co. as part of the programme ‘Library as Laboratory’ on 15 April 2016.
For me, intern Emily, this was the second aspect of the ‘Library as Laboratory’ programme that I have worked on… and as a small status update, working for &Co. is still as fabulously mad as it was since my last blog. Unfortunately, no duplicate life-size Bernie Ecclestone’s have been made since, however he has taken up permanent residency within the &Co. offices (much to people’s disdain).
Handbag has been an entirely different experience to the last project… And as a piece entirely dependent on collaboration with the community – true &Co. style – this time I would be helping recruit women of all ages from Leighton Buzzard to dance around their handbags in a feel good celebration of female empowerment.
Two evening rehearsals were held for the participants with artist Gerry in order for them to perfect the skill of handbag-dancing (which I would highly recommend!), and then, just like that, performance day was upon us. Each performance was to only be a precious fifteen minutes long, short but sweet as they say – and repeated 5 times. In the dressing rooms, there was a buzz of excitement for what was about to commence as the ladies dressed into their brightly coloured dancing frocks… the audience members were arriving and it was now time for the first show.
Fortunately for me, I was able to attend all 5 of the performances that evening and by the end of the first performance I wished that I was also dancing around my handbag. I don’t think I was the only one who had caught the dancing bug; as a standing audience there was a gentle jig amongst us all, a constant tapping foot, and a collective hum of us all enjoying the song ‘Billie Jean’. At the end of one particular performance, one elated audience member declared “Handbag Power!” It also seemed that we were not the only ones enjoying ourselves; the performers were asked to dance in any style they liked, and as they did in their colourful dresses and accompanied by their handbags, they radiated utter joy and found myself lifted with them.